Elizabeth Shwiff is a CPA and financial services expert with more than three decades of experience. She is the co-founder and director of practice for Shwiff, Levy & Polo, LLP, a leading accounting firm established in 1989.
Elizabeth is also a linguistics expert, fluent in four languages. She has extensive professional experience, having worked with several corporate and government entities. She served as an Information Officer for the U.S. State Department between 1972 and 1974, representing the country in the Soviet Union.
She taught English, Russian, and German in various public schools and colleges between 1974 and 1978. From 1978 to 1995, Ms. Shwiff worked for different companies in various capacities, such as Tax Accountant, Senior Tax Administrator, Investment Officer, and Director of Business Development.
As a co-founder and managing partner of Shwiff, Levy & Polo, LLP, Elizabeth was instrumental in growing the accounting firm to be one of the leading providers of business, financial, tax consulting services. Her industrious leadership saw the firm rank number 60 in the Bay Area’s “Top 150 Fastest-Growing Private Companies” annual ranking for 1999.
Elizabeth has several licenses and certifications to her name, which prove her extensive professional capabilities and experience. She is a U.S. Tax Court Practitioner, Accredited Estate Planner (AEP), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified Financial Planner (CFP), and a Certified Public Accountant (CPA). She is also an ICF-credentialed professional coach.
Ms. Shwiff has a Bachelor of Arts in Languages from Indiana University Bloomington and a Master of Arts in Languages from UCLA. She also holds a Master’s degree in Accounting and Taxation from Indiana University – Kelley School of Business and a Master of Science in Taxation from Golden State University.
She recently passed the Federal Tax “Bar” Exam that allows her to practice in the US Tax Court. Only 250 individuals in the U.S. have successfully challenged this exam, and she is proud to be one of them.
Ms. Shwiff also actively engages in corporate social responsibility, and she recently sponsored a Business Circle event for Craig Newmark to the tune of $5,000. She also awarded Tracy Lemmon a $5,000 sponsorship for the 11th Annual SF Peacemaker Awards.
Where did the idea for Shwiff, Levy & Polo come from?
Shwiff, Levy & Polo existed as an idea long before it became a company. Full-time employment limited me from fully utilizing my potential. I wanted a platform that would allow me to offer clients the best value and top-level expertise to help resolve their business, financial, and tax issues.
After working for various entities in the corporate and financial sector, I believed I had sufficient experience to run my firm, providing top-notch accounting and financial services to individuals and businesses. In 1989, I co-founded Shwiff, Levy & Polo, LLP, which has grown over the years to be one of the country’s leading CPA firms.
What does your typical day look like and how do you make it productive?
Each day is usually different and depends on what I need to accomplish. However, all my days start at around 5.30 am – some exercise, breakfast, catching up on the local news, and a few calls and emails to get things moving.
How do you bring ideas to life?
I’m always looking for new ways to solve my client’s problems. I brainstorm a lot with my team, ask the right questions, and research extensively about issues, all geared to develop viable solutions for my clients’ challenges.
What’s one trend that excites you?
Blockchain technology fascinates me. This technology has the potential to impact accounting and auditing professions. With blockchain, accountants would clearly understand their organization’s obligations and resource availability and significantly improve efficiency.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Planning my day ahead of time helps me stay organized and in control of things, which significantly boosts my productivity.
What advice would you give your younger self?
Don’t be afraid to take risks, but always be strategic in your approach. Find mentors early in life, and ask them the right questions regarding your interests and passion.
Tell us something that’s true that almost nobody agrees with you on.
Maintaining a healthy work-life balance is essential for your success as an entrepreneur.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
Focus on one task at a time. Don’t take on another task until you accomplish the current one.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
I choose the right people to work with – people who identify with my vision. I’ve also discovered over time that being straightforward about issues and not holding back the truth from people plays an integral role in the success of a business.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I have made several costly decisions in the course of building our firm, but I learned from them to become better and stronger.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
Any technology that would help people deal with a pandemic today and in the future would be a great idea.
What is the best $100 you recently spent? What and why?
Learning never stops. I recently subscribed for a webinar to improve my client relations skills.
What is one piece of software or a web service that helps you be productive?
What is the one book that you recommend our community should read and why?
Several books inspire me, but Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown stands out. This book encourages us to pursue only things that are essential to our lives and reject everything else.
What is your favorite quote?
Never let your business get on the financial side of your business.
Steve (Stefan) Junge hails from Germany and helps with the day-to-day publishing of interviews on IdeaMensch. While he and Mario don’t share a favorite soccer club, their enthusiasm to help entrepreneurs is a shared passion.